Every day the child is a discovery. One day he spends hours inventing stories with fictional characters, other days he would like to run around the park for hours. A recent study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health found that when three major lifestyle factors – sleep, physical activity and screen time constraints – work in unison, children can experience significant cognitive benefits for intellectual abilities.
According to the brainpower study, based on survey data of more than 4,500 American children between the ages of 9 and 10, 95% of teens failed to meet the 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth set by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). Worse still, on a typical day, 30% of American children did not meet any of the three main recommendations.
- Children aged five to 13 should sleep continuously nine to eleven hours nightly.
- Children should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity moderate to intense on a daily basis.
- The time of use of the recreational screen it must not exceed two hours a day.
In the United States, it appears that families are doing better to reach their sleep limit. However, nearly two out of three children spent too much time in front of the screen, and over 80% of children did not get enough daily exercise.
When the guidelines were met, the benefits weren’t just for the children’s physical health: according to the researchers, meeting all three aspects of the guidelines was significantly associated with “higher” levels of global cognition, which includes measures such as:
- attention span
- processing speed and language
Compliance with at least some of the guidelines has also been associated with cognitive benefits over not meeting them at all.
According to a study conducted by Steven Heymsfield, professor at the Biomedical Research Center of the State University of Louisiana, and by Angelo Pietrobelli, professor at the University of Verona, compared to how children behaved a year earlier during the “quarantine” “at home, they tended on average:
- eat one more meal a day
- to sleep on average an extra half hour a day
- to spend five more hours a day in front of a screen, both that of the TV and that of the computer or smartphone.
At the same time, the researchers noted an increase in consumption of red meat, sugary drinks and junk foods in general. And, obviously, physical activity, compared to the previous year, had decreased significantly.
Hence, an anti-obesity decalogue has been drawn up.
1. NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST
Skipping this meal causes weakness and a decrease in psychophysical performance, due to a lowering of blood sugar. This also leads to having a large snack in the late morning, having little appetite for lunch and overeating in the evening.
2. DAILY SPORTS ACTIVITY
Schedule at least 60 minutes a day of moderate / intense physical activity on average to improve metabolic health and reduce the risk of excessive weight gain. Physical activity is documented to prevent overweight and obesity and improve metabolism at all ages.
3. ACTIVE PLAYING ACTIVITY
Increased levels of physical activity can also be achieved by promoting active games (cycling and playing outdoors) in all children from 2-3 years of age and, from 5-6 years, even a ‘organized motor activity with a frequency of 2/3 times a week.
4. ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Increased levels of physical activity can also be achieved by promoting an active lifestyle (walking, climbing stairs, etc.) in all children from 2 years of age.
5. LIMITS TO THE HOURS IN FRONT OF THE SCREENS
Reduce the time spent in front of a screen (TV, video games, computer, mobile phone, etc.) to less than 2 hours a day. Spending too many hours in front of a screen, in addition to taking away time from physical activity, can be associated with excessive and improper nutrition. Installing an electronic extinguishing device seems to be the most effective strategy for limiting television hours. The use of TVs and tablets under the age of two is not recommended because a negative effect of video exposure on sleep regularity has been demonstrated.
6. RESPECT CORRECT SLEEP HYGIENE
Respect proper sleep hygiene. Little sleep is a potential risk factor for childhood overweight and obesity. The optimal amounts of sleep in children and adolescents are:
- 4 – 12 months – 12 – 16 hours (including naps)
- 1 – 2 years – 11-14 hours (including naps)
- 3 – 5 years – 10 – 13 hours (including naps)
- 6 – 12 years – 9 – 12 hours
- 13 – 18 years – 8 – 10 hours
7. PREPARATION FOR A CLEAR SLEEP
For a correct rest it is suggested to turn off all the “screens” 30 minutes before going to bed, avoiding that there are televisions and computers in the children’s bedroom.
8. MEDITERRANEAN DIET
Follow a low calorie diet, based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet, with at least 5 portions of fruit, vegetables and vegetables, favoring vegetable sources of protein. A diet rich in plant products and with a moderate intake of animal proteins and saturated fats promotes a healthy metabolism and reduces inflammation in the organism.
9. FIVE MEALS A DAY
Increasing the number of meals / snacks per day reduces the amount of food eaten during the two main meals, facilitates digestion and reduces the absorption of calories. The greatest number of meals should be consumed in the family because conviviality since childhood improves the relationship with nutrition.
10. FRESH FOOD PREPARED AT HOME
Optimizing the time spent at home between parents and children preparing fresh food also offers children a positive role model to follow.
Article sources: centroallergologiapediatrica.it, onlinelibrary.wiley.com, thelancet.com